Alex in Wonderland

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Now, Alice is a girl I can relate to. She saw a clothed white rabbit followed it and found herself falling down a rabbit hole. Ladies and gentlemen, I fear I have found myself in a rabbit hole. I started writing out my business plan. Writing a business plan is fairly straight forward. However, it forces you to really conceptualize your business. As I write to you from my rabbit hole, I would like to share that this can be very challenging. Personally, I thought that I had planned every detail of my business but the more I dive into my business plan the more cracks I find. The process forces you to be very specific about what you want to do. Every idea seems great when looked at in a broad light but it’s the microscopic details that make for a lasting business. There are a lot of tools online that can help you formulate your plan. I’ve chosen to use an app that outlines what I need to put in my plan. I find this extremely helpful because I don’t have to search online for what I should add. A little Cheshire Cat hipped me to Business Plan Premier. They were featured on entrepreneur.com and Business News Daily. Also, the app gives you exposure once you’ve completed it by showing it to possible investors. You can find it in your iTunes Store for those of you who are apple users. There is a small fee, however, there are also apps you can use that are free. I love the idea of writing a plan this way because it’s innovative. I can work on my business plan anywhere and anytime. It also exports your plan as a pre-formatted word document. These kinds of tools are priceless for people like me that are new to the business game. I hope you find this helpful. As for me, it’s back to shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings.

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Rumpelstiltskin Needed a Trademark

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Rumpelstiltskin was a man who knew the importance of a name.  He had many talents.  He could spin straw into gold and one day he offered to help a poor millers daughter being held in captivity.  However, he had a few strings attached.   She could use his services just not his name.  As long as he controlled the use of his name he retained his power.  You should always protect your identity in your personal and business life.  In business, you do so by having a trademark.  You can get a trademark for around $300.  Trademarks protect names, symbols, words and logos that distinguish your business from other businesses.  You’ll have to first do your research to make sure that the name isn’t already taken.  I’m in the process of applying for a trademark.  Once I finish the application process,  I will blog about the wait time and response I receive.  There are several sites on-line that offer you trademarks but in my opinion it is safer to go to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  As for Rumpelstiltskin, his empire crumbled with one word from the millers daughter, “Rumpelstiltskin!” I guess he should have had a trademark.

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Goldilocks and the Legal System

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Goldilocks was a girl who decided to venture into new territory.  Along the way, she found herself tired and hungry.  Luckily, she had options.  After trying them all out, she discovered not all the options were the right fit.   If there is anything we learned from good old Goldilocks is that to feel comfortable you have to find an area that’s “just right” for you.  This past week, I have done research on types of business entities.  There are several different business types for you to choose from.  They all have their benefits and drawbacks.  Originally, I thought I wanted  a sole proprietorship.  A sole proprietorship is the easiest business entity to get up and running. You are only taxed once because there is no separation between you and your business.  However, you are liable.  Your personal assets are at risk if you are sued.  I wasn’t sure if this was a risk I was willing to take.  My other options were a partnership, limited liability company or a corporation.  I instantly crossed out a partnership because I am the sole creator of my business.  A limited liability company offered a lot of benefits with few drawbacks.  It offered protection from liability, as well as, only being taxed once.  However, I decided to go with a corporation because my hope is to continue to grow my business and most investors want to deal with corporations.  Corporations are more work to start.  They must also follow specific regulations.  However, it’s worth it for me  because I want a large company that expands into other areas down the line (i.e. clothing and accessories).  For me, a corporation is “just right”.  When you start your own business this is one of the first things you will need to decide.  It effects where you need to move forward legally.  Below are some links with information on the different types of business entities.

Video: Choosing Your Legal Business Type- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7PulXuCI4w

IRS Website: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Business-Structures

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Jack and the Giant Scam

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Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack.  Jack ran a small business with his mother selling milk from their cow.  However, they weren’t reaping enough profits.  They could barely make enough to meet their daily needs.  After a while, the business collapsed because their cash cow dried up.  Jack and his mother decided to cut their losses and sell their business.  On the way to the market, Jack met a man who offered him “the answer to all his problems” in exchange for his cow.  Jack thought it over and decided that magical beans were the way to go.  These beans are what I like to call “myths”.  This is information we hear through the grapevine that has no real backing.  I have heard several times that when you start a small business you can apply for a grant from the Small Business Administration/SBA or other funding organizations to cover the cost.  I did some research over the past few days and discovered that this information is simply incorrect.  The SBA does not offer “free money” for people looking to start a new business.  The grants that are available are for specific groups, activities or organizations.  On the other hand, they do offer guidance on how to start a business. They offer information on writing a business plan and training on how to start a business.  However, there is a tiny ray of hope for those hoping to receive a grant.  If you are dead set on a grant you can look into what your state offers.  You can check with the local economic development agency.  I’ve posted a link below that contains the websites for the local economic development agency in each state.  I’ve also posted a link that lists the different federal grants that are offered in the event you wanted to check for yourself.  To go back to Jack, I can tell you that after several phone calls and online searches I’ve learned that you should be leery of sites offering you access to federal grants for you to start your small business.  Some of these sites even ask you for money in exchange for a list of grants you can use.  Don’t let them scam you.  In the end, Jack made it up the beanstalk only to find a Giant that chased him back to where he started and he frantically tried to cut his ties with his investment (magic beans) by chopping the tree down.

Links:

Federal Grants – http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/home.html

Local Economic Development Agencies http://www.sba.gov/content/economic-development-agencies

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The Table of Contents

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Good Morning! I call this blog entry ” The Table of Contents” because it just lists some of the components you need to start a business.  These are things I’ll be working on and sharing throughout my blog.  I’ll add links to the sites you would need for these items as well.  I hope you find this list of components useful and have a great day! :O)

1) Create Your Business Idea

a)  Decide what type of business best suits you.

b)  Use analysis to determine if your idea will create profit.

c)  Write a business plan.

d)  Research sources for start-up financing.

e)  Develop a marketing plan.

2) Create Your Business Structure

a)  Who owns this business?

b) What kind of business are you in terms of structure?

c)  Would your business benefit from selling stock?

d) What type and level of legal protection do you need?

e)  How will your business be taxed?

f)  Don’t be afraid to go out there and speak to people in each business structure for advice.

3) Develop A Name

a)  Create a name for your business.

b)  Research the availability of that name to include its availability as a domain name online.

c)  Check with your county clerk if you’re creating a local store.

d)  Do a federal and state trademark search if you want to have your business operate regionally or nationally.

e)  Depending on which level you choose you’ll need to register your business name to protect it.

4) Determine Your Business Location

a)  Annotate the type of features your business would need at its location.

b)  Determine what you can afford in rent and then analyze various neighborhoods for rent cost.

c)  Check the zoning restrictions.

5) Permits and Licenses

a)  Obtain a federal employment identification number.

b)  Obtain a sellers permit to sell legally in your state.

c)  Obtain a state license.

d)  Obtain a local tax registration certificate and any local permits.

6) Insurance

a)  Look at the property you will be working from and what it requires in insurance.

b)  Obtain insurance for any vehicles used for your business.

c)   Obtain insurance for the location your costumers/clients will be coming.

d)   Obtain insurance for your product.

7) The Books

a)   Set up an accounting system.

b)  Decide what your fiscal year looks like.

8) Taxes

a)  Learn the tax system for your business.

b)  Learn what deductions you can use.

c)  Look at the IRS’s tax guide for small businesses,  starting a business and their tax calendar for small businesses.

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(I derived this list from: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/start-own-business-50-things-30077.html.  If you have more to add to this list please share.)

About This Blog

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Once upon a time I had a dream.  I wanted to open my own business and design children’s shoes.  At home, I had a giant portfolio with sketches of shoes.  I’d think about what my store would look like and the little shoe boxes with my logo on it. I could visualize every detail of every shoe I sketched.  However, I had no idea how you start your own business and my shoe business stayed in a sketch book.

I’m not the only person with a dream.  I’m not the only person who has their dream laying in a portfolio.  We’ve all heard the stories of self-made business owners but the truth is no one leaves a trail of crumbs for us to follow.  I decided I could get up and pursue my dream or I could stare at it in a portfolio.  As I begin this journey,  all I have is a pocket full of sketches but I believe in life all you need is a dream.  I want to share what I learn along the way. For everyone out there that is like me and all you have is a dream this is my trail of crumbs…

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